Stop Romanticizing Mental Illness | Teen Ink

Stop Romanticizing Mental Illness MAG

March 17, 2014
By Low97 SILVER, Chantilly, Virginia
Low97 SILVER, Chantilly, Virginia
5 articles 2 photos 0 comments

Favorite Quote:
I know nothing with any certainty. But the sight of the stars makes me dream. -Vincent Van Gogh

I can't log in to Tumblr anymore without seeing it all over: black and white photos of Violet and Tate from “American Horror Story,” showcasing tragic subtitles; smudged Sharpie handwriting on walls talking about low self-esteem; text posts with thousands of notes. Mental illness and low self-esteem are terrible things, however, it seems that in our effort to destigmatize them we have begun to romanticize them. And that is dangerously tragic itself.

Let me make this abundantly clear: Mental illness is not beautiful. Someone with a mental illness can be beautiful, but the disease itself is silent torture. I have noticed a steady rise in movies and books in which characters are nearly perfect except for their cute, quirky mental illness. Their ADHD exists only on script, and their struggles are confined to the ink on the page. Their obsessive-compulsive disorder becomes a hilarious hyperbole. Their depression becomes a running joke. These characters appear to carry their illness with amazing strength and levelheadedness. They become the poster child of mental illness through a depiction that is so skewed that they represent nothing at all.

I understand that having a character with a mental illness is the “in” thing right now. Give Cassie Ainsworth from “Skins” an eating disorder and she becomes a character to sympathize with. Give depression and suicidal tendencies to Uncle Frank from “Little Miss Sunshine” to pique the audience's interest. I don't have an issue with giving real problems to fictional characters, but I do object when those problems are made to look easy and beautiful. It's important that authors and screenwriters realize that mental illnesses do not come and go. They are with you at night before bed, the next morning, and on the bus ride to school. It is not a special trait writers can insert occasionally to make a character more appealing. Make it real. Remind the audience all the time because it is an everyday struggle.

To have a mentally ill character does not make them the target for romantic affection either. Mental illness is not an appealing trait; it is not a quality on the romantic checklist of men or women. I do not know many teenagers who would be able to tolerate a partner's clinical depression. Often the words “crazy” and “psycho” are used to describe girls and boys who skew slightly from the norm. Imagine the girl who craves the bite of a razor blade across her skin, just to relieve the pain in her mind. Imagine the boy who has a bottle of pills stashed in his bottom drawer “just in case.” Yet in fiction, these boys and girls are fortunate enough to find a mature, level-headed, patient partner to help them through it all.

They make it look so easy.

Ask any depressed, bipolar, kleptomaniac, anorexic, antisocial, or bulimic about their love life, and I can assure you it is not what the movies make it out to be.

Mental illness is The Perks of Being a Wallflower. It's “Black Swan.” It's “Requiem for a Dream.” It's “Girl, Interrupted.” It's “Silver Linings Playbook.” It's “A Beautiful Mind.” It is not cool or romantic. It is waking up crying because you are alive another day. It is feeling as if you have no purpose on Earth. It is the blanket of pain at 3 a.m. and the thoughts of suicide that are screaming in your mind. It is looking at yourself in the mirror and being mortified at what you see. It is kneeling over the toilet bowl. It is the stinging sensation in the shower. It is feeling utterly and completely alone.

Mental illness isn't a quirky trait. It is not for writers to glamorize. Nor is it a black and white photo with poetic lyrics on Tumblr. Far from it. We have created a culture that idolizes mental illness and encourages self-harm, and even at times ending it all and becoming immortalized as a romantically tragic soul. Stop the romanticizing and the beautifying! It is time we shed some light on the painfully real truth.

The author's comments:
As a young adult as well as an editor for my school newspaper, I find it imperative to speak about topics that impact and should matter to those my age.

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This article has 14 comments.

m1na GOLD said...
on Dec. 25 2017 at 4:14 pm
m1na GOLD, Olympia, Washington
13 articles 0 photos 91 comments
As someone with Depression and social anxiety/anxiety disorder, I love to see people who actually understand how difficult be dealing with mental illness.

kayy14 said...
on Nov. 5 2016 at 3:37 pm
0 articles 0 photos 3 comments
Gladly, here is your source !!

on Nov. 4 2016 at 3:42 pm
Jtatsu PLATINUM, East Brunswick, New Jersey
26 articles 0 photos 77 comments
How is this plagiarized? I don't see any blatant copying from any one source here, though I may be wrong. Source?

on Nov. 4 2016 at 3:42 pm
Jtatsu PLATINUM, East Brunswick, New Jersey
26 articles 0 photos 77 comments
Can you please show me evidence for your claim? I personally thought this article was very well written, and I'm not sure where your allegations are coming from.

kayy14 said...
on Sep. 8 2016 at 1:47 pm
0 articles 0 photos 3 comments
this is clearly plagiarized, if you are going to write about a topic you seem to be so passionate about, then next time come up with your own ideas to share

kayy14 said...
on Sep. 8 2016 at 1:45 pm
0 articles 0 photos 3 comments
You can now tag other users by using "@".

on Aug. 29 2016 at 7:53 pm
0 articles 0 photos 1 comment
this was cleary stolen and re-edited

skyvex1 SILVER said...
on May. 8 2016 at 10:14 pm
skyvex1 SILVER, New York City, New York
8 articles 1 photo 24 comments

Favorite Quote:
"There's always a price for what you want"- Steve Perry

Of course Tumblr tries to be pretenteious and pretends to relate to everyone's problems. Tumblr has always been horrible.

zoetic said...
on Jul. 13 2015 at 1:31 am
@G333 Don't give up!! I don't know who you are but I just wanted to say, keep trying, I know mental illness can be so difficult to deal with and I can't promise you that it will be entirely curable but it is manageable. Support yourself and get support from others and sometimes its still going to be hard but you're also beautiful (you, not the OCD&anxiety) and you can do this Take care of yourself, alright? You're worth it

G333 said...
on Jul. 7 2015 at 4:15 pm
I cannot thank you enouh for this. Because people romanticize mental illness so much, people take it as a joke. If I told someone I had OCD and anxiety they'd think it was a quirky trait, like you said. But it really isn't. I am only a teenager but my mental illnesses are so painful that no one can even begin to understand. I spent months not being able to enter certain rooms in the house, and I turned taps on with my feet. I just want to die so bad, but I'm afraid to tell anyone this because they won't take me seriously.

brooks303 said...
on Mar. 30 2015 at 4:16 pm
This was so great. People can't ever seem to understand why I don't appreciate movies like Silver Linings Playbook when I myself struggle with my Bipolar. They just can't understand that I am too busy with making my brain a healthy place and don't have time to marvel at Hollywood's poor attempt of showing the hell that Bipolar is. It's like they put us in a glass window to just look at and observe and marvel. In a less humane era maybe they would cage us up.

Emma Cooper said...
on Mar. 5 2015 at 12:07 pm
Emma Cooper, Collinsville, Oklahoma
0 articles 0 photos 1 comment
I'm writing a research paper on how mental illnesses are romanticized, and I was wondering if you could give me some examples of fiction books that romanticize it? (:

on Feb. 3 2015 at 10:48 am
vamika_s PLATINUM, Gaborone, Other
39 articles 0 photos 30 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Colour my life with the chaos of trouble"

This is an extremely well-written piece. As someone who has suffered from depression before, it resonates with me on a very deep level. Thank you for pointing out the over-romanticization of mental illness. There's abosulutely nothing beautiful about it and the truth is, no one can fix you but yourself.

on Dec. 19 2014 at 1:58 pm
Imweirdfaceit, River Falls, Wisconsin
0 articles 0 photos 1 comment

Favorite Quote:
A drop in the ocean

Thank you so much! I hate how people choose to romanasize this topic when in reality there isn't anythig like that. Thank you.